US politicians go to bat for Microsoft

Friends in high places


Microsoft's lobbying of the Bush Administration to intervene on its behalf in its antitrust battle with the EU, is bearing fruit.

Yesterday, European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said that representatives of the US government contacted her before she fined Microsoft $357.3m in July for non-compliance with the EU's landmark 2004 antitrust ruling. The unnamed officials, from the US embassy in Brussels, asked Kroes to be "nicer" to Microsoft.

In March 2004 The House of Representatives international relations committee wrote an open letter to then-commissioner Mario Monti, saying the anti-trust affair had been a US matter between US companies that had already been settled using US courts.

The State Department also reportedly engaged in an "off-the-record attempt to focus their attention" on the harm EU penalties could cause, while Senate and House of Representatives members waded in through speeches that warned of a looming trade war between the US and Europe.

Microsoft is an experienced political mover. The company spent $8.7m in 2005 greasing the Washington machine according to OpenSecrets.org, who records donations to campaigns of elected officials and candidates, and cash spent on lobbying. Microsoft beat all other software, hardware and telecoms companies, and was second only in spending to the US Telecom Association.

As in 2004, it seems the US government's latest lobbying on Microsoft's behalf has achieved nothing, as Kroes went ahead and imposed her fine anyway. According to Kroes the US government's move was "an intervention which cannot stand... like all companies great and small, Microsoft is not above the law".

Political pressure would appear to be the latest tactic in a broad campaign being used by Microsoft to reach a quick and favorable decision in its long running antitrust case with Europe. Last week, Kroes denied there was a vendetta against Microsoft, after one company partner published an open letter in the FT accusing the EU of "playing games" with Microsoft by raising concerns over bundling of security features with Windows Vista.

The letter followed Microsoft's request for more information about the EU's security concerns and the publication of a Microsoft-sponsored IDC report detailing the advantages in terms of jobs and taxes to European countries from Windows Vista. According to Kroes, "there appears to be a coordinated campaign to portray the Commission in a negative light." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022